Researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, extracted mitochondrial DNA from the bones and teeth of skeletons found in the mountains. Bronze-Age skeletons, dating from the seventh to the 10th century BC, showed no sign of mixed lineages: those from the western side of the mountain range were European, and those from the eastern side were Asian. However, come the Iron Age – seventh to second centuries BC – and the coming of the Scythian culture, and the skeletons display a neat 50-50 blend of lineages.
The Scythians were already known to be the first large Eurasian culture, but were believed to be the product of migration from Europe. The researchers now suggest that the genetic blending is actually a result of the expansion of Scythian culture over the mountains.
Story: Joanna Carver, New Scientist | Photo: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona